Archive for the ‘John 3:16’ Category


Thomas Ford (1598–1674) Westminster Divine on John 3:16

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For proof hereof, I appeal to John 3:16, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on him, should not perish.” Here’s enough said, to show, That God is not wanting to me, but that they are wanting to themselves. There’s provision made such, and so much, as none can perish, but they who refuse to make use of it. Whosoever believes on him, shall have everlasting life. What can be said or done more on God’s part? What constructions are made of this Scripture are many, I shall not mention, but shall give the sense of Calvin upon it. “The Love of God here testified,” (says he) “respects Humanum genus, mankind; and a note of universality is added, to invite all promiscuously to the partaking of this life, and to cut off all excuse, observe that, from such as believe not.” “For this purpose,” (says he) “the word [WORLD is used, to show, that though there be nothing in the world worthy of God’s love and favor, yet to show himself gracious to the whole world, he calls all without exception to the faith of Christ.” Indeed he says too, “That life eternal is offered unto all, so as notwithstanding faith is not of all.” And in this he confesses, the special grace of God to some particular persons.

Let it also be considered, That the word [WORLD] cannot rationally be taken in any other sense. For in the next verse, it is meant of the world, whereof some are saved, and some perish, (as Reverend Davenant observes) and that they who perish, perish only because they believe not on the Son of God. I shall not debate, what advantage the coming of Christ into the world brought to such, as make no use, reap no benefit by it. Certainly it states the question beyond all dispute, That as faith only saves, so unbelief only condemns, which is all I have to prove. For there’s not the least hint of any defect on Gods part, but all the fault is said on man alone, in not believing on the Son of God sent into the world, not to condemn, but to save it. And here let Calvin speak what he thought in this case: Certium quidem e, non omnes ex Christi morte fructum percipere: Sed hoc ideo fit, quia eos impedit sua incredulitas. In Ep. ad Heb. cap. 9. v. 27. “It is only by Infidelity, that all are not partakers of the benefits of Christ’s death.”

Thomas Ford, Autokatakritos, or, The Sinner Condemned of Himself (London: Printed for Edward Brewster, and are to be sold by Giles Widowes, at the Maiden-head, over against the Half-Moon, in Aldersgate-street, near Jewen-street, 1668), 46-47. [Some spelling modernized; italics original; square bracketed inserts original; and underlining mine.]


Andreas J. Köstenberger on John 3:14-18

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The allusion to Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness is plainly to Num. 21 :8-9, where God is shown to send poisonous snakes to judge rebellious Israel. When Moses intercedes for his people, God provides a way of salvation in the form of a raised bronze serpent, so that “when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived.” But the primary analogy established in the present passage is not that of the raised bronze serpent and the lifted-up Son of Man; rather, Jesus likens the restoration of people’s physical lives as a result of looking at the bronze serpent to people’s reception of eternal life as a result of “looking” in faith at the Son of Man (d. 3:15-18; see Barrett 1978: 214; cf. Carson 1991: 202). Yet as in the case of wilderness Israel, the source of salvation ultimately is not a person’s faith, but the God in whom the faith is placed (d. Wis. 16:6-7). “Lifted up” (hypsothenai, hypsothenai) has a double meaning here (d. 8:28; 12:32,34), linking Jesus’ exaltation with his elevation on a cross (Ridderbos 1997: 136-37). The expression draws on Isa. 52: 13 LXX (hypsothesetai, hypsothesetai; see Dodd 1953: 247).

The phrase “everyone who believes” strikes a markedly universal note. Although looking at the bronze serpent in the wilderness restored life to believing Israelites, there are no such ethnic restrictions on believing in Jesus. Everyone who believes will, “in him” (Jesus; see additional note), receive eternal life (cf. 3: 16-18; see commentary at 1:4,9, 12).42 God sent Jesus to save not just Israel, but the entire world (3:17). Its insistence on the universality of the Christian message marks John’s Gospel off from sects such as the Qumran community or the large number of mystery religions, all of which saw salvation limited to a select few. At the same time, however, John’s Gospel does not teach universalism, that is, the notion that all will eventually be saved; rather, salvation is made contingent on believing “in him” (3: 16), that is, Jesus the Messiah (d. 20:30-31). This, then, is the answer to Nicodemus’s query in 3:9: these things (regeneration, entering the kingdom) can happen only through the “lifting up” of the Son of Man (Carson 1991: 202). The signs-based faith of 2:23 and 3:2 was founded on seeing Jesus in the flesh; the faith of 3:15 “is faith in the power of him who is powerless in the flesh and in the eyes of the flesh” (Ridderbos 1997: 137).

iii. The Evangelist’s Exposition (3:16-21)


What is the reason (gar [gar, for]) that God made eternal life available (Wallace 1996: 668)? It is his love for the world. This much-loved verse is the only place in John where God the Father is said to love the world (d. 1 John 4:9-10). The OT makes abundantly clear that God loves all that he has made, especially his people (e .g., Exod. 34:6-7; Deut. 7:7-8; Hos. 11:1-4,8-11). In these last days, God has demonstrated his love for the world through the gift of his one-of-a-kind Son. Significantly, God’s love extends not merely to Israel, but to “the world” (Morris 1995: 203; cf. Muller, ISBE 4: 1115; Guhrt, NIDNTT 1:525-26), that is, sinful humanity (Carson 1991: 205). Just as God’s love encompasses the entire world, so Jesus made atonement for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).

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Leon Morris (1914-2006) on John 3:16-17 (with John 12:46-50)

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16 God loved “the world” (see Additional Note B, pp.126ff.). The Jew was ready enough to think of God as loving Israel, but no passage appears to be cited in which any Jewish writer maintains that God loved the world. It is a distinctively Christian idea that God’s love is wide enough to embrace all mankind. His love is not confined to any national group or any spiritual elite. It is a love which proceeds from the fact that He is love (I John 4:8, 16). It is His nature to love. He loves men because He is the kind of God He is. John tells us that His love is shown in the gift of His Son. Of this gift Odeberg finely says, “the Son is God’s gift to the world, and, moreover, it is the gift. There are no Divine gifts apart from or outside the one-born (sic) Son“.In typical Johannine fashion “gave” is used in two senses. God gave the Son by sending Him into the world, but God also gave the Son on the cross. Notice that the cross is not said to show us the love of the Son (as in Gal. 2:20), but that of the Father. The atonement proceeds from the loving heart of God. It is not something wrung from Him. The Greek construction puts some stress on the actuality of the gift: it is not “God loved so as to give”, but “God loved so that He gave”. His love is not a vaguely sentimental feeling, but a love that costs. God gave what was most dear to Him. For “only begotten” see on 1:14, and for “believeth on” see on 1:12 (also Additional Note E, pp. 335ff.). The death of the Son is viewed first of all in its revelatory aspect. It shows us the love of the Father. Then its purpose is brought out, both positively and negatively.

Those who believe on Him do not “perish”. Neither here nor anywhere else in the New Testament is the dreadful reality behind this word “perish” brought out. But in all its parts there is the recognition that there is such a reality awaiting the finally impenitent. Believers are rescued from this only by the death of the Son. Because of this they have “eternal life” (see on v.15). John sets perishing and life starkly over against one another. He knows no other final state.

17 Now John uses the thought of judgment to bring out God’s loving purpose, and once again he employs the device of following a negative statement with the corresponding positive. God did not send the Son into the world, he tells us, in order to judge it. Elsewhere, however, he tells us that Jesus did come into the world “for judgment” (9:39). The resolution of the paradox demands that we see salvation as necessarily implying judgment. These are the two sides to the one coin. The very fact of salvation for all who believe implies judgment on all who do not. This is a solemn reality and John does not want us to escape it. Judgment is a recognized theme in contemporary Jewish thought, but it is the judgment of God, and it is thought of as taking place at the last day. John modifies both these thoughts. He does, it is true, speak of judging sometimes in much the normal Jewish way (8:50). But it is quite another matter when he says that God has committed all judgment to Christ (5:22, 27). He goes on to speak of Christ as judging (5:30; 8:16, 26) or not judging (8:15 [but if. 16]; 12:47), and of His word as judging men (12:48). His judgment is just (5 : 30) and it is true (8:16). How men fare in the judgment depends on their relation to Him (5 24; 3:19). As the cross looms large Jesus can even speak of the world as judged (12:31) and of Satan likewise as judged (12:31; 16:11) . Clearly John sees the whole traditional doctrine of judgment as radically modified in the light of the Incarnation. The life, and especially the death of Jesus have their effects on the judgment. So far we have referred to future judgment, the judgment of the last day. But this is not all of John’s teaching. He sees judgment also as a present reality (v. 18). What men are doing now determines what will happen when they stand before Christ on judgment day. All this has obvious Christological implications. Clearly John has a high view of Jesus’ Person. His teaching on judgment is yet another way in which he brings out the messiahship of Jesus, his great central aim.

In this verse “judge” has a meaning much like “condemn” (AV), as the contrast with “be saved” shows. Some men will, in fact, be condemned, and that as the result of Christ’s coming into the world (v. 19). But the purpose of His coming was not this. It was on the contrarythat the world should be saved“. So John brings out his positive corresponding to the negative at the beginning of the verse. Salvation was central to the mission of Jesus, a truth which is brought out also in the Synoptists (Matt. 27:42; Mark 8:35; Luke 19:10, etc.). We should not overlook the “through him” at the end of the verse, for this attributes the salvation in question ultimately to the Father. It is also worth noticing that in this verse we have another example of John’s habit of giving emphasis to certain words by the simple device of repetition. He uses “world” three times in this verse.

Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1971), 229-232.

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Herman Ridderbos on John 3:14-18

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Verses 14 and 15 speak with increasing clarity about the way this descent and ascent of the Son of man, as well as the salvation represented in those events, is effected. Vs. 14 does so by comparing the raising up of the Son of man with that of the serpent in the wilderness. The reference is to the story in Nu. 21 :8f., where Moses raised a serpent up on a pole as a visible sign of salvation for all who thought they were about to die. Jesus speaks of the exaltation of the Son of man, so “lifted up” acquires a double meaning here (as also in 8:28; 12:32, 34): the exaltation of the Son of man (= his glorification) is effected by his being raised up on a cross. The comparison brings this last meaning to the fore as tertium comparationis, since the element of glorification cannot be applied to the serpent. In this connection the redemption-historical “necessity” (“must be”) of this being “lifted up” is important, strongly reminiscent as it is of passages like Mt. 16:21; Lk. 9:22 in which the humiliation of the Son of man is described as the way of his exaltation and is related to God’s counsel of salvation. Still–and this is typical for the Fourth Gospel–the crucifixion is not presented as Jesus’ humiliation but as the exaltation of the Son of man. The reason, obviously, is that Jesus’ suffering and death were the way in which he would return to God and be glorified by him and that in that way he would grant eternal life to those who believed in him (vs. 15). This last point again ties in clearly with Numbers 21: Just as gazing at the serpent was the God-given means of life, a sign both of God’s will to save and of his power over death, so Jesus as the Son of man in his suffering and death on the cross also embodies God’s will to save and power over death. But it “had to” happen in the way of the descent from heaven, of the incarnation of the Word, of his suffering and dying on the cross. Later, therefore, the living bread that came down from heaven and that “the Son of man will give” (6:27) will also be called his “flesh” that he gives for the life of the world, and only those who “eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood” will have life in themselves (6:51,53).

But all this is not further explicated, at least not in vss. 14 and 15. Here the reference is to “whoever believes in him.” 107 The object of this faith is the Son of man as the crucified one as well as the crucified Son of man. The Son of man “must” go this way, which is inconceivable to the flesh. But he takes it as one destined by God to the highest glory, as one who enters death in order thus, like the serpent lifted up by Moses, to be the great sign that in him God has the will and the capacity to save from destruction everyone who believes. Faith receives its character from the one as well as from the other truth. It is faith in the powerful Messiah-King promised by God, the Son of man, but in him as the crucified one; it is faith in the power of him who is powerless in the flesh and in the eyes of the flesh. Therein, also, lies the difference from “belief in his name” (2:23), which rests exclusively on the manifestation of Jesus’ power and which by itself need be no more than a conclusion of which the “flesh” is capable. But to be able to see and to believe in the heaven descended, cross-exalted Son of man–that takes a different set of eyes, and for that one must be born from above.

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William Hendriksen (1900-1982) on John 3:16

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16. For God so loved the world that he gave his Son, the only-begotten, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

God’s infinite love made manifest in an infinitely glorious manner, this is the theme of the golden text which has endeared itself to the hearts of all God’s children. The verse sheds light on the following aspects of this love: 1. its character (so loved), 2. its Author (God), 3. its object (the world), 4. its Gift (his Son, the only-begotten), and 5. its purpose (that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life).

The conjunction for establishes a causal relation between this and the preceding verse. We might paraphrase as follows : the fact that it is only in connection with Christ that everlasting life is ever obtained (see verse 15) is clear from this, that it has pleased God to grant this supreme gift only to those who repose their trust in him (verse 16).

1. Its character.

The word so by reason of what follows must be interpreted as indicating: in such an infinite degree transcendently glorious manner. Great emphasis is placed on this thought and in such a.

So loved. The tense used in the original (the aorist egapmsen) shows that God’s love in action, reaching back to eternity and coming to fruition in Bethlehem and at Calvary, is viewed as one, great, central fact. That love was rich and true, full of understanding, tenderness, and majesty.80

2. Its Author.

So loved God (with the article in the original: ho theos, just as in 1:1 where, as has been shown, the Father is indicated). In order to gain some conception of the Deity it will never do to subtract from the popular concept every possible attribute until literally nothing is left. God is ever full of life and full of love.81 Take all human virtues; then raise them to the nth degree, and realize that no matter how grand and glorious a total picture is formed in the mind, even that is a mere shadow of the love-life which exists eternally in the heart of him whose very name is Love. And that love of God ever precedes our love (I John 4:9, 10, 19; d. Rom. 5:8-10), and makes the latter possible.

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